Nick Kelly appears to be courting controversy. The sleeve of his new album boasts a picture of the Irish singer-songwriter sporting an orange hoodie. This shocking act of rebellion will surely get him banned from most shopping centres in the UK. Whether you think he’s making a socio-political comment on modern youth or not, this hoodie is probably the only thing about this album that attracts any kind of interest.
It’s easy to be critical and to be fair this album is clearly a labour of love. God knows I wouldn’t be able to write my own LP and release it independently. But if I did, I’d try to get an impartial listener to check it out first to spot the faults I was blind to see. It seems that no such person has done this here.
Kelly appears to be a bit of a renaissance man. Not content with music he has also tried his hand at writing short stories and directing films. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are bags of creativity to spare. Unfortunately it’s perplexing that this is such a flat affair and it seems that he could be spreading himself too thinly.
The Loneliest Ghost at Pere Lachaise recalls an atmospheric visit to a Parisian cemetery and is the only song to try to do something different and it name-checks Chopin and Edith Piaf amongst others. The song is reminiscent of The Divine Comedy but lacking the wit that makes Neil Hannon’s mock-intellectualism work so well.
The rest of the songs are bland and made up of the ‘so-you’ve-split-up-with-your-boyfriend/girlfriend-but-don’t-worry-because-you’ll-love-again’ genre. Either that, or they are love-letters to the places Kelly’s been visiting recently (New York, Paris etc). Generally the lyrics are clich�d and the whole experience is soporific to say the least.
The biggest fault lies in the fact that Kelly’s voice is quite limited. Every time he attempts to break out from his low, breathy vocals things start to sound amiss and a few notes sound strangled as a result. This limitation contributes to the feeling that all these songs sound the same.
This is chasing the middle of the road David Gray market but with the Gray/ Cullum/ Melua trinity battling for supremacy in the album charts Kelly appears to have missed the boat. An album like this should have something to say but the finished product is pure dinner party music – the perfect background accompaniment to dipping pitta breads into taramasalata.
Sorry to say it but hoodie or no hoodie – I wouldn’t let him into my shopping centre.